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When we began this journey, at the start of Jesus: Man Of The Bible, we spoke of the fact that in the world today there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different “Christian” religions and that no two groups teach the same things! Now that we have completed our study about how God used Jesus as the instrument to bring into existence HIS SCHEME OF REDEMPTION, it is time to examine the situation with this multitude of churches and see if we should be happy or sad with it.
The answer to the problem can be found by looking at one final picture of Jesus given in the Bible! This picture will settle the matter once and for all time!
Back in Lessons 7 and 8, we studied many examples of people becoming Christians in the time of the New Testament. One of these examples was of a Gentile soldier named Cornelius. Peter was told to go to this man’s house and teach him about Jesus. Please turn back to Acts 10:34-43, and read the speech Peter made to the people in Cornelius’s house. In verse 36, Peter made an interesting statement about Jesus. The thing that makes it interesting is that Peter stopped in the middle of his original thought, inserted the statement, and then continued with his speech. Many Bibles place the statement inside parentheses () – which is usually done to show that the words inside are completely separate from the main idea the speaker is discussing. However, it is also important to note that when someone does this, the point they are ADDING is usually an important one. What was so important that Peter would interrupt himself to make certain that these people heard? Peter wanted these people to know that Jesus Christ, IS LORD OF ALL PEOPLE!
Another passage we want to look at is Romans 14:9. In Romans 14, Paul is writing to Christians about being tolerant and patient with each other in matters where God does not say what should be considered right or wrong practices in their lives. He tries to get them to stop judging one other in these matters, and to convince them, he speaks about the fact that no Christian belongs to himself or herself any longer. In the middle of this, he says that Jesus died was raised out of the dead so that he might be the LORD of BOTH THE LIVING PEOPLE AND THE DEAD PEOPLE!
Aside from these, many other New Testament verses speak about Jesus being the LORD and this was a very important teaching in original Christianity, but what does it mean? What IS a LORD? Was this simply a title for Jesus?
Once again, we must begin our search for answers in the Greek language of the New Testament. The word LORD comes from the Greek word KURIOS1. As with all the other Greek words we have studied, this one was not a religious word, but was used in everyday life and it had a very simple meaning. It meant, an absolute owner, and it was used to describe people who owned things, like property or houses or animals, but it was also used to describe PEOPLE WHO OWNED OTHER PEOPLE! Another English word we could use is MASTER! The opposite of a LORD would be a SLAVE! Slavery was very common in the ancient world and in the time of the New Testament, there were two basic classifications of people in the world. Either you were A FREEMAN or you were A SLAVE!
People living in that time had a certain understanding of the word LORD. We do not have this understanding today because SLAVERY IS RARE in our world! Because of this, when we read and say, “Jesus is LORD” it may not be clear to us how serious the meaning of this statement really is!
A SLAVE was someone who was OWNED by another person and so they had NO FREEDOM and they had NO RIGHTS! They were property! They were BOUGHT and they could be sold, they were bred like animals to create more slaves, and their main reason for existing was to work in any way the LORD wanted. If a slave was useless or disrespectful then the LORD could have them killed! This was how life was for millions of people living in the time of Christ!
This question has two answers. The first can be easily seen in passages like Philippians 2:6-11. Look closely at verses 9-11. Paul states that God placed Jesus in a very high place and gave him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and EVERY TONGUE WILL CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD! The point is that since Jesus was completely obedient, even to the point of dying, his Father MADE HIM TO BE LORD!
This idea is explained better in another passage we looked at several times in our studies. Please look once more at the speech Peter made in Acts 2:22-36. He told the crowd many things about Jesus and at the very end, said that God MADE JESUS BOTH LORD AND CHRIST! When the people heard this, they were convicted in their hearts, asked what to do, and were told to repent and be baptized! Why did the people react the way they did when Peter told them that Jesus had been MADE LORD? These were God-fearing people and, because of their understanding of the meaning of the word in their time, what Peter said meant that this Jesus that they had crucified OWNED them and that they were HIS SLAVES! That made them afraid! After all, it is not a good thing when slaves KILL their master! The result of that encounter was some 3,000 people becoming Christians in a single day!
Therefore, the first answer to the question is that Jesus became a LORD because GOD MADE HIM LORD!
The second answer has to do with the basic meaning of LORD. Every LORD who had slaves PURCHASED those slaves! Evidence shows that Jesus is no exception. Please read 2 Peter 2:1. Peter is not speaking about Jesus being LORD, but about how false prophets will come in the future. One thing they will do, he says, is “deny the MASTER WHO BOUGHT THEM.” This is a definite reference to Jesus PURCHASING people to become their Lord!
Please read Acts 20:28. Here, we find Paul speaking to a group of church leaders and in his message, he tells them to watch over the church that the Lord2 BOUGHT WITH HIS OWN BLOOD! This passage not only speaks of Jesus PURCHASING people, but it tells us what he used to pay for them – HIS OWN BLOOD!
Therefore, there are TWO factors to consider in understanding HOW Jesus is a LORD. First, there is the fact that Jesus is LORD because HIS FATHER MADE HIM TO BE LORD! Second is the fact that Jesus is LORD because HE BOUGHT US WITH HIS BLOOD! Either way, JESUS IS A REAL LORD!
From what we saw in the passages we read, the word LORD was a very strong word in that time and when people heard it they paid careful attention. People today are much less concerned. In fact, for many people, the word LORD is simply a religious term that applies to Jesus. For many, it is JUST A TITLE! However, LORD is NOT simply a TITLE for Jesus. It is a description of WHAT he is!
As we have traveled along, we read Matthew 7:21-23 several times in our studies. Jesus said that not everyone who called him LORD would enter into the Kingdom, but only those who would OBEY the will of his Father! In a later study, we also came across Luke 6:46, where Jesus asked the people why they called him LORD but DID NOT DO what he said! These passages show that Jesus IS A LORD in the true sense of what a LORD was in the time of the New Testament! “LORD” is not simply a title of respect for Jesus! He OWNS US and therefore he COMMANDS US! The people in the New Testament time understood this very well. We must understand it if we hope to one day live with him in his Kingdom!
It is now time to return to the matter of the hundreds of different “Christian churches” existing in the world today. Is THIS what THE LORD JESUS CHRIST wants, or is it what MAN wants? Is GOD pleased with this? After all, this is what really matters! Man may rejoice at the situation, and “Praise God” for all the people who are “coming to faith” but let us not forget Matthew 7:21-23 and the rest of the warnings we found concerning people changing God’s original teachings! None of the people that Peter, John, and Paul referred to as false teachers in the church THOUGHT of themselves as false teachers! THEY THOUGHT of themselves as Christians! Remember that before Paul became a Christian, he THOUGHT he was a sincere and dedicated servant of God when he thought that Christ was a “fraud” and anyone claiming to be “a Christian” should be punished. Therefore, just because many religious leaders today THINK the situation, with so many churches is GOOD does not mean that it IS good! We need to study about this matter and see what the NEW AGREEMENT says about the topic of UNITY.
Our time is not unique. Maintaining unity was a big problem in the time of original Christianity. It is difficult for people to submit completely to a LORD who is not physically present, so that he can continually restate and enforce his law upon all of his slaves. In addition, the natural desire of each person to have their own way takes some time to change, and if people in the church are stubborn about studying, as they should, then the problem of maintaining the unity God wants becomes even more difficult! However, just because there were problems with unity in the time of original Christianity does not mean that it is impossible to have this unity! UNITY under the one LORD is mandatory!
Please read Ephesians 4:1-6 and record the main points. Paul is writing to people that are already Christians and he begins by describing himself as a slave of the Lord. Then he encourages3 the readers to walk the way God “called them” to walk. He clarifies this WALK by stating that it should be with humility and with meekness4, while being patient with each other IN LOVE!5 He then continues by using that same word Peter used in our “Corn Plant Diagram” - MAKING EVERY EFFORT TO MAINTAIN THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE BOND OF PEACE! The fact that Paul speaks as he did must indicate that there was a problem of unity in that place!
As we continue through Ephesians 4, Paul gives the list of seven (7) points of unity! He says that there is ONE body, ONE Spirit, ONE hope, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, and ONE God!
We have very little difficulty accepting the fact that there is only one SPIRIT, one HOPE, one LORD, and one GOD. Even in its present divided condition, the religious world agrees almost completely upon these matters. However, this same passage also teaches that there is only one BODY, one FAITH, and one BAPTISM.
We discovered in previous lessons that Paul often uses the word “body” to refer to “the church” and so we must therefore agree that there is really supposed to be only ONE CHURCH!
We also must recognize that since the Bible speaks of only "one FAITH" then it does make a difference what we believe, what we practice, and what we teach! Only a faith that is based upon the teachings of the Bible is to be considered “the ONE faith”.
Can the “ONE baptism” mean anything other than the one we studied in Romans 6:1-4 and all the other passages, and the one we found being received in EVERY example of people becoming Christians in the Book of Acts?
Uniting ourselves to Christ and living under his authority will bring us into that same “one faith” and “one body” that the first Christians had. However, we must remember that this “faith” is not something that a person can determine simply by having a FEELING of confidence and security in their heart. It can only be proven by our complete and honest submission to the will of God. No passage better illustrates this point than our “old friend”, Matthew 7:21-23. Remember that Jesus spoke of many who were very religious, who possessed supernatural powers, and who felt very secure about their faith. However, remember how shocking it was to hear him say that those people will not enter into heaven, not because they were not active enough, or not sincere enough, or did not do enough good things. These were not the reason why they were rejected. His point was that they did not do THE THINGS that the Father wanted. Considering this, we must conclude that having a good heart and doing good works are only important IF we commit our efforts to doing THOSE THINGS that God wants and THIS can only be achieved IF we study and follow EXACTLY what the Bible says!
It DOES make a difference what we BELIEVE, TEACH, and PRACTICE!
There has never been a greater need for this UNITY than today. Religious confusion grows and unity is not something we see very much of. Shortly before he was crucified, Jesus prayed to his Father. Please read John 17:20-21 and record the main points. Here is perhaps the strongest statement of UNITY to be found in the NEW AGREEMENT! Jesus not only wants UNITY for his disciples who lived during that time but also unity for all generations of disciples in the future! Our generation IS INCLUDED!
What IS this UNITY Christ wants? Look carefully at the last portion of the statement. Jesus asks that the unity he shares with the Father will be extended to his followers! He wants Christians to JOIN THAT UNITY! This sounds very much like the “SHARING GOD’S NATURE” that Peter spoke of in 2 Peter 1:3-4!
Notice also that there is a REASON why Jesus wants THIS UNITY! “So that THE WORLD WILL BELIEVE that you sent me.” If Jesus is the LORD, and his followers are not unified under his rule, then HOW WILL THE LOST WORLD COME TO FAITH? After all, A LORD who cannot control his slaves gets NO RESPECT! The world ignores them! However, IF all of Christ’s SLAVES are unified under his rule then the world cannot ignore HIS authority!
Therefore, if God wants everyone to be united (or to “be ONE”) then how can there be so many religious groups in the world today? We have Catholics, Protestants, "Born Again" groups of every kind, Evangelicals, Charismatic groups, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and a wide variety of groups that are not so well known. If the different names are not confusing enough, we also will find that while all of them CLAIM to follow God they accept different teachings and very often oppose each other while CLAIMING to be united with Christ! From our point of view, this is very confusing, and, considering the prayer of Jesus above, one has to wonder if Jesus is really IN CHARGE of the situation!
Before we can accomplish unity, the causes of disunity must be determined and then removed.
Perhaps the greatest cause of disunity is the widespread IGNORANCE of God's word. When people stop studying the message of the Bible, they become dependent upon following what others tell them to think and do. This can make a sincere person the unknowing target of false teachers who promote the teachings of men. Many good and decent people are unable to distinguish between truth and error because they simply do not know what the Bible teaches, or how to study the Bible! Unfortunately, some people simply do not see any need to study things for themselves, while others believe that a daily READING of the Bible is the same as STUDYING! Remember that in a learning situation, reading your lesson and studying your lesson are two very different things! If you do not know what the Bible teaches then how can you determine if what your religious leaders tell you to do is correct, and how can you know what the Bible teaches if you do not study it?
Another cause of disunity are the DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS of the Bible found in religious groups today. In Lesson 4 of Jesus: Man Of The Bible we learned that interpretation means to explain something ACCORDING TO YOUR OWN OPINION. One does not have to think very hard to realize that the dangerous part of this definition is the one that refers to the influence of personal opinion upon the explanation. Because different people might look at a situation in entirely different ways, it is possible for two people to look at a single passage from the Bible and come to different (even opposing) interpretations. If there are two opposing conclusions then common sense tells us that both cannot be correct. This explains how we can find different groups today, each one perhaps even reading the same passage of the Bible, coming up with different explanations. We should work to discover the exact meaning of the teachings of the Bible and never compromise truth for what we or someone else might THINK! Our opinions do not matter, but only what GOD SAYS matters!
Another cause of disunity is the introduction of human traditions and practices.6 There are many practices seen in religion today that cannot be found in the Bible and yet many people accept and follow these teachings as if they are genuine. In most cases, men who lived hundreds of years ago created these practices and they have been taught and practiced by people for so long now that they are assumed to have come from God. Of course, not everything being taught in the religious groups today is wrong, but there are many teachings in religion today that can only be traced back a few hundred years. This is a very important point when you consider that Jesus and his Apostles lived two thousand years ago! Therefore, if a certain religious teaching can only be traced back a few hundred years, how can anyone say that IT WAS PART OF ORIGINAL CHRISTIANITY? If we are to maintain the unity that Jesus prayed for then we ought to be able to trace our teachings back to the time of Christ! If you and I cannot distinguish between man-made teachings and the true teachings from God then we may be sincerely following a religion that may seem sincere and may make us feel good inside but in fact is leading us away from Jesus! This is a very serious and dangerous thing to consider!
If we compare the various teachings found in the many different religious groups in our world today, we find that no two groups teach exactly the same things. However, if each group were to surrender its traditions and “creeds”, and unite with Christ on the teachings of the Bible, then the unity for which Christ prayed could become possible! After all, Christ has ONLY ONE SET OF TEACHINGS and IF EVERYONE FOLLOWED THEM there would be UNITY and ONLY ONE CHURCH!
In an attempt to achieve unity, some religious leaders have suggested that all existing religious groups today might combine into one very large group, with each smaller group keeping its own teachings and name. This would be union, but NOT unity! Unity implies a common thinking, a common action, and it demands a common submission to Christ AS LORD! This could not be true with a union because no single group would want to give up its individual beliefs and practices. Therefore, we would be left with the same confusing religious picture we already see in our world today, and the LORDSHIP of Jesus would be reduced to ONLY BEING A TITLE!
The only solution for the situation in religion today is for people to LET THE LORD JESUS RULE IN THEIR LIVES! Every person who claims to be a Christian MUST go back to the Bible, search for the original message of the NEW AGREEMENT, make any changes in their understanding and actions so that they become MEMBERS OF THAT AGREEMENT, and then LIVE in Christ’s ONE CHURCH of which he is the ONLY HEAD! If that happens, there will only be ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, and ONE CHURCH, because that was what Jesus had when he started his rule as LORD!
One thing is certain. We CANNOT REMAIN IN A CHURCH that does not follow the pattern of Christ’s church that we see in the Bible. This is because JESUS has only ONE CHURCH and THAT CHURCH is the one we find in the Bible. HIS CHURCH TODAY must be the same as it was in the beginning of the NEW AGREEMENT and every church that CLAIMS to be HIS, but does not follow HIM, is a fake! What will he do to them when he returns? Please do NOT forget Matthew 7:21-23! Do you want to be with them when he comes? Please do NOT forget 2 John 1:9-11!
The believers in the New Testament were what we would call Christians ONLY! If we desire to be like this today then all we need to do is follow that SAME “Christianity” they practiced. We find this Christianity in the New Testament, and if we take the teachings of the Bible as our guide then we can become “CHRISTIANS ONLY” today! By separating ourselves from the confusing religious system we live in, it is just as possible for us to be "Christians only" today as it was for the people in the first Century.
Jesus died to become our LORD and so we MUST become his slaves, in the way the word SLAVE was used in the time of the New Testament. We must remember that we were BOUGHT and, as slaves, we have no rights or freedoms. We leave that behind in the water of our baptism, where we died! We now live to SERVE THE MASTER AS HE WISHES and he wants us to be faithful and productive. We must be careful to grow and we cannot make changes to the Lord’s commands! Unfortunately, this also means that we CANNOT JOIN in the celebration of the religious world as they rejoice that so many are coming to God, because what is actually happening is that people are not coming to God! If they were coming to God there would only be ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, AND ONE CHURCH! If the PROOF of faith is in the actions, then the actions of the religious world condemn it and no person who becomes involved in it can hope to be saved. The only way we can be saved is for us to leave behind the religious world, and be joined to God’s GRACE through our faithful obedience from the heart to the teachings we receive from HIM, trusting in HIS works to save us, and committing our lives to change and faithful service in his group of believers, just as the original Christians did!
If we do this, then we will not be Protestants, Catholics, “Born Again” Christians, Evangelicals, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. We will be exactly the same thing the original believers were. We will be CHRISTIANS only AND Jesus will be LORD! We will have peace of mind because no matter what happens, we have a FATHER who loves us, a LORD who sympathizes with us, and a FAMILY that will encourage us, and challenge us, and take care of us when we need help! This all happens because God made a PLAN a long, long time ago!
1 his word is pronounced kur΄-ē-os. There is another Greek word that means “lord” or “master”. It is DESPOTES (pronounced des-po΄-tās) – but this word usually focused more on the owner of a house or property, including house and farm slaves!
2 Some ancient copies of the New Testament have the word “God” here instead of “Lord”. The strength of the evidence is such that it could go either way! However, if it is “God” or “Lord”, we KNOW that the blood used to purchase the CHURCH came from Jesus when HE died!
3 This word can also mean, “warn”.
4 This word means ,”power under control”, and carries the idea of self-control!
5 It is important to point out here that when the Bible mentions “love” it usually means “DOING what is best for another person regardless of how you feel about them”. This is very different from what most of us think of when we hear the word love because we usually think of love as a warm emotional feeling for someone. However, this IS NOT what the word love in the Bible means. “Love” in the Bible is what many people call “AGAPE love”. They call it this because the most common Greek word for LOVE in the New Testament is AGAPE (pronounced ă-gă-pāy΄). This love is SHOWN BY ACTION and is done regardless of how a person feels! It has almost nothing to do with emotions! (For two very good illustrations of this idea please read Romans 5:8 and Matthew 5:43-44!)This is the LOVE Jesus had for mankind and it is this Love that should motivate us to want to be united with him.
6 These are sometimes called creeds.
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